The latest example of purchasing ineptitude was flagged last week by the Daily Mail - not, I confess, a paper of which I'm usually too fond. They'd done some digging into police force spend across England and Wales, and the results were staggering (even, perhaps, allowing for some journalistic spin).
Take handcuffs. For the same item, North Yorkshire police pay £10. West Mercia pay £23.50.
Motorcycle leathers? More than a sixfold difference. Helmets? Yours for £12.59 if you're buying them in Derbyshire, but £36.32 not far away in Staffordshire. Electricity? 8.7% more expensive per kwH in one East Anglian force than for their immediate neighbours.
Some reading this might praise the salespeople involved. After all, if the buyer allows you to make more margin, why wouldn't you? But, actually, it just frustrates me. This little army of pompous procurement bureaucrats dotted across the UK - all thinking they know best, all running tortuous procurement processes, all being paid good salaries from the public purse -are simply wasting the money of bidders and taxpayers alike.
And what of the more senior folks, who are supposed to oversee public sector procurement? It's hardly rocket science to analyse spend and spot anomalies. The system's rotten from the top down.
We're seeing signs of change - our friend Steve Mullins, who works with us to educate sales teams to understand and influence buyers - is engaged on a project right now to assess the calibre of various key procurement people. But it's time that the government and civil service made genuine and speedy efforts to put their own house in order, and to consult with the bidding world as they do so.